Why Mentoring Matters with Shawn Jones

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47 minute podcast

Shawn Jones joins us this week to talk all about mentoring and why it matters for everybody - even (or maybe even especially) developers.

Transcript

Dave Hicking: Welcome to Twenty Percent Time, a podcast from the team at Tighten, a web development consultancy that specializes in Laravel, Vue, React, Livewire, all kinds of stuff. My name is Dave Hicking, and as always, I'm here with my amazing co-host, Zuzana. How are you doing today, Zuzana?

Zuzana Kunckova: I'm doing great. How are you doing? We need to switch it up. I mean-

Dave Hicking: We should switch it up.

Zuzana Kunckova: ... we have the same question and I said the same answer. I need to think of something else to say.

Dave Hicking: Well, I don't want you to say that you're doing poorly.

Zuzana Kunckova: No, no.

Dave Hicking: I mean, you could always feel free, but I'm glad that you're doing well.

Zuzana Kunckova: Well, it sucks man. It sucks today. No it doesn't.

Dave Hicking: No, it's-

Zuzana Kunckova: The next time, I'll prepare something else, but it's good. I'm good. Thank you. How are you?

Dave Hicking: I'm good. I'm good. It's Friday, which it typically is when we record Twenty Percent Time, because that's our Twenty Percent day at Tighten. And I'm excited because today we are joined by another one of our amazing programmers at Tighten, Shawn Jones. Shawn, how are you?

Shawn Jones: Pretty good. Pretty good. Pretty good.

Dave Hicking: Shawn, is this your first time on the podcast? I think it is, right?

Shawn Jones: Yeah. First time ever on Twenty Percent Time podcast. Yeah.

Dave Hicking: Well, I'm glad we're finally fixing that mistake. Shawn, we've got you on today because we want to talk about, I think, a topic that's near and dear to your heart for some of the things that you've been involved with inside Tighten, but also outside of Tighten, and that's mentoring, specifically, mentoring other programmers.

Shawn Jones: Yes.

Dave Hicking: So yeah, Zuzana, I think you have a question that you want to start with.

Zuzana Kunckova: Well, if this podcast is about all about mentoring devs, my question is how did you get started every mentoring? Is it something you've always wanted to do, or is it just something that happened to you?

Shawn Jones: I think it's something that happened to me. So, in order for me to get deep into my mentoring game, it would've had to come all the way back to, I would say, my military experience. So, a lot of folks know that I'm a veteran and I served from '02 to '07 and I did a couple tours, and I think it initially started there, where we're just put in situations and folks who could handle stress assisted other folks who couldn't handle stress. And so I think that's just some of the things that I had admired. So, of course, you have that initial of upbringing throughout your basic training, and your advanced individual training, and even in your airborne school, there's certain periods during your training where you could fall, basically have a mental breakdown, or someone else could sort of experience that.

Shawn Jones: And we were always taught to move as a unit, and that's something that I've always loved during those times. So, even in when you're out of those training situations and you're into, we call it regular army back then, so you're just nine to five army, you're going to your job every day, there would be these instances where you'd have higher ups, there would be staff sergeants, sergeant first class, and they'd have to mentor the younger soldiers, keep them in line, keep them in check. And it's how you did it. And usually, the folks who I admired the most, are the folks who didn't tell you what to do, but they stood next to you and they showed you what to do and they did it themselves. So, there was, for example, there's this guy, I mean, I've been out of Army since 2007, that's like 14 some odd years.

Shawn Jones: I still remember this man's name. His name is Sergeant Dory, okay, from 2004. The reason why I remember is his name so much was because two things, he'd always call you hero. He's like, "What's up hero?" He'd always address you like that. It was beautiful. And then another thing would be is if he ever had to correct you, he would never just reprimand you and that be it, he would literally say, "Hey, you got to correct this." And if you didn't correct it, he give you a second warning. And if you didn't correct it, then he would make an extreme sort of situation where, "Hey, all right, look, every morning at 6:30 we're going to do this thing together." And so one of examples was there was this guy who was showed up to the unit, and this is back in like oh '03, '04, I say '03.

Shawn Jones: And back then you had to have a cleaned press uniform and you had to shine your boots. They don't do that now, but back then you had to. So, you had to show up to show up to the every morning, or I think at least on Monday mornings, you had to be clean press ready to go to work because you had to be professionally presentable, and this dude did not. He's like, "Why am I doing this for a utility uniform? Doesn't make any sense." And, of course, Sergeant Dory would come up real, "Hey fam, your boots ain't shined, your uniform's not pressed. You need to get on it. You need to present yourself in professional way. You're soldier, da, da, da." Guy was not listening. And he is like, "Okay, fine." And he is like, "Every morning from here on out after PT." Because we wake up at six 30 in the morning to do physical training for an hour.

Shawn Jones: He's like, "After PT, I'm going to bring my uniform up to the barracks and I'm going to bring my boots up. We're going to meet underneath the tree and every morning we're going to press our uniform, iron it and we're going to shine our boots underneath the tree." And no lie, this Sergeant Dory, who is a family man, he's got three kids, he's got a wife, usually after PT, they would leave, they would go home, he'd have breakfast with his kids and wife and then he'd come back and be ready to start work at nine. He brought his uniform and his boots in the car, so that way after PT they could go take a shower and then they would underneath the tree every morning at 7:30, shining their boots together, pressing their uniform together just so this guy can get right.

Shawn Jones: They did it for two months. It's just one of those things where like, I'm never going to forget that sort of leadership. It's just by leading by example and just by being present, a lot of folks don't realize, they think like, "Hey, if I give you all the tools to be successful, then you'll be successful." And that's not true. A lot of the times it's showing up and you're being present and that matters a lot more than to people than what you think and just by doing the thing next to them. So, I think with that, I've always admired that. And in a case of any job I've had since then it, not even Tighten, but before that I think there was, when I was working for a telecom company and I eventually became a manager and we were installing satellites and I had to go and assist other folks on how to do certain jobs, I wouldn't just tell them what to do.

Shawn Jones: I would be getting up on the ladder and climbing up and say, "Hey, this is how we do it, this is how we route the cables. This is where you're going to drill into the home. This is where you want to do the certain things like that." It's a matter of just... And if there's a late job, it's like, "Hey, well I'm not going to go home, if you're not home with your family, I'm not going to be home with my family, I'm going to stay with you until we get this job knocked out." They weren't going to go home together. It's like that sort of thing.

Shawn Jones: And so, it's just the idea of just making sure that people don't feel like they're alone tackling a situation or a problem and helping them get through it. It could be something as small as learning thing of the job like, "Hey, I don't know how to do this loop correctly or work with collections or whatever. Or it could be something as big as I feel like I'm siloed and I need a buddy." And so it can manifest into different things and it's just the key thing I always loved is just being present and being available.

Zuzana Kunckova: I've got to ask this guy, did he end up shining his shoes?

Shawn Jones: I can't remember the dude. I think he did. I think a while he got the gist of it. He's like, "Yeah, you know what?" I think he took a little bit more pride, this presentation so to speak. And so, I think he from there on, because it went on for at least two or three months. And then I think after that he got the memo and he started doing things by himself. Yeah. And Sergeant Dory was always doing that. He was always leading by example. That's one of the things I always loved about him.

Zuzana Kunckova: That's amazing. Yeah.

Dave Hicking: It's really interesting because, I think, sometimes people associate that mentorship or that almost, not quite an apprenticeship, but that really training up the people who you're trying to help out. People who you're trying to set an example. I don't know if people always associate that with the world of web development. And it's interesting that that's the background where you're coming from, that's what you're bringing to the table. And you've done mentorship like you said at other places, but I know that outside of web development when the last one as well, but outside of your jobs, you've done work with LaunchCode. Which is this nonprofit that helps people code and hopefully get a job. How did you get to LaunchCode and how does that all work?

Shawn Jones: Okay, well, I mean this is a crazy story, so I'm...

Dave Hicking: Good. We like stories man.

Shawn Jones: Yeah, so rewind to 2011, I'm finishing up film school. So, I did audio in film and that was my initial passion, and I meet this woman who ends up being my wife today. But we meet through Facebook apparently through a mutual friend. And it was one of those things where she could joke and witty and I can keep up too. And I was like, "Oh, I'm kind interested, who is this person?" And I looked up to see where they were from and it said St. Louis, and I was like, "Nah." And I was like, "I'm not going there." I'm in LA. I'm trying to pursue this career and that's in it. And then my friend ends up playing cupid. He ends up getting us linked up and everything. And I eventually end up like, "Oh, yeah, you know what? I'm just going to move to St. Louis. We're going to make this thing happen."

Shawn Jones: So, I end up moving to St. Louis and there's no film industry here, no audio industry here. And so, I had to start over and I started doing random odd jobs again. And two years after that is when there is an ad in the paper for this things like, "Hey, if you want to start a new career and learn programming, LaunchCode is basically teaching programming for free." So, I'm like, "Okay, cool." And I literally leave work in my uniform, go down to the downtown. I think they've met up at the Peabody Opera House at the time. There's a thousand people of varying ages and they don't even know how this program's going to work. They basically took the curriculum of CS50, which you could find online@edx.org. And they sort of took that in and it's like, "Hey, we're going to use this and we're going to build pods and we're all going to learn together and teach you the basics of programming. We're going to teach you C. And then ultimately with teaching you C, you can pick up like PHP, Java Script, you can learn yourself."

Shawn Jones: And so, I do this program, I finish it up maybe five or six months and I actually get placed. They actually place me in a couple jobs and I end up placing myself in one that I stay at for a good year. And I was so happy about that placement because Full Sail, when they take you in, they're like, "Hey, we're going to place you at a job." We're going to place you at audio engineering job. And that didn't really happen because they can't basically have a good outlook on different cities and things of that nature. They're only in Orlando and I'm like in a city that's not Orlando, it's not a major city, so the outlook for placement in St. Louis of all places, not that great, especially with the connections.

Shawn Jones: So, that's not working for me. Los Angeles Film School had a similar program like, "Hey, once you complete this, we're going to place you... We'll keep you in a loop and place you in potential job opportunities." That never happened because I had to leave Los Angeles. So, this is the first program that placed me, not once but twice, they placed me at two different places to work after finishing their curriculum. And I was so moved by that, that I was like, oh wow, this place is actually doing legit things that I want to come back and help. So, after 2014, I think I completed the program there, I get placed for a couple times, 2016 I come back and I start working as a TA, which is a teaching assistant back then they call it a TF, like a teaching fellow.

Shawn Jones: But essentially they get a small group of folks because usually the class is a size of maybe 200. And so, yeah, it's huge. But every year they get an application group of probably 15 to 1800 people. They have to whittle it down to about 200, 250 folks. And then out of that 250 folks, there's a main instructor and then depending on the size of the class, they'll be X amount of number of TFs because they want every teaching fellow or teaching assistant to have 10 to 13 people. So, the instructor would teach in front of the class every day and then for an hour. And then we would break off into these pod sessions where we would learn with our individual groups survey about an hour and a half. And then we would basically coalesce back to the main group at the end to finish and exercise their assignment.

Shawn Jones: And during that process, there's a lot of negative speak, because as developers we're working on things and we're like, "Oh I don't know this tech, or I don't know this." We get thrown into the situations where we're not comfortable. Well, imagine you're 38 and you're starting your career over again and you're learning after work and you've got three kids and you've got these situations where you're constantly thinking about your finances and you're constantly thinking about, "Hey, is this program the right choice for me right now at this moment?" So, you're battling that, then you're battling the technical aspect of learning on top of that. And then you're trying to also battle maybe the cultural fit, "Hey, am I really going to fit into these new companies that I'm going to?" Just so much of that. So, that's when I realized during that teaching, during assisting with that, I was like, okay, yeah, it's not about the technical piece of this, it's about everything else.

Shawn Jones: Because to be honest, people were understanding the logical aspect of it, but they were counting themselves out before they even finished the course. So, LaunchCode would bring in about 250 people and unfortunately around every class we graduated around 100, 130 folks because folks just dropped out of a free class because they counted themselves out from something. And so, I realized at that point I was like, I remember those times where I've got three kids, I don't have a job because at the time when I was learning, I wasn't employed and I'm learning after I'm laying my kids down to go to sleep and I'm learning from 10 to two in the morning or something like that. And then I'm trying to get back up and take care of them. So, I wanted to share my experiences with them to of reaffirm, "Hey look, I can do it, you can do it. It's possible. Hey, I fit in here. It's possible." That sort of thing.

Shawn Jones: And just mentor them in that way and give them a difference of mentorship. Because, I think, a lot of folks too, traditional folks, they teach in a college style where it's like, I give you a problem, go figure out how to do it. And one of my favorite teachers, I can't remember his name, but he was a high school math teacher and I think he taught me algebra one. He would just tell you the answer and I loved it. He would just be like, "Hey, yeah, you just do this. You do the two times three over this and you distribute it to X and da, da, da, da, da." And he would just walk you through and give you the answer. And I was like, that's wonderful.

Shawn Jones: Because it allowed my brain to eventually connect the dots and how to do the process. So, that's how I taught because that's how I realized that's how a lot of people, that's what they needed. They would just run into a wall and they would get stuck and then they would try to go their TF or TA and the TA was being like, Well, you got this. You got all these pieces, just go figure it out." And they would step away, and you would just look at the person's face after that and they would feel like, I don't belong here. Be like, "I'm not getting it." Negative speak, and so it was just happening. And then I would come over and be like, I would explain them the why and then I would walk through them through their problem and then we would answer their problem together.

Shawn Jones: And then we might even answer the next two together. And then I'm like, "All right, cool. I think you got it now come and get me if you got any more questions and don't be afraid to ask questions." And so. I think the need of having to, I think one, once I realized that I had of the skill set from the military, from prior things from other teachers and realizing that they needed this as well and they needed this particular type of style of teaching, I think that's where I just started implementing and started using it in everything at that point.

Zuzana Kunckova: I can definitely relate. So, many times I had problem and people say, "Okay, you go and Google it." But if you don't know what to Google, Google really hard. Although if you don't know what you read the code, keep reading the code, you'll get it eventually. But how are you supposed to get it if you don't understand? And it frustrates me to no end. This is not the way I work. I can't and I don't learn this way. And it's really hard to find somebody who is willing to give you the answer without feeling like they're cheating or you are not trying hard enough. But I can definitely, yeah, so resonate with that. It's like a flush pop one in my mind. That's what I need. That's why I struggle, so but how do-

Shawn Jones: And what did-

Zuzana Kunckova: Yeah, go on. Sorry.

Shawn Jones: Oh, no, that's just, a lot of people think, they think by not giving the answer, helping the personnel. And there's an argument for that for sure, because you're also teaching resourcefulness. But if you can't get them past the initial idea of being resourceful, then they'll never attempt in the first place at all. They'll just never do it.

Dave Hicking: It's that tricky line. I mean you don't want to just give people, you have to build them up but also keep them going. You know what I mean?

Shawn Jones: Exactly.

Dave Hicking: I mean, I suspect that's behind what makes good teachers, good teachers and mentoring is not just teaching, but there is some teaching to it, right?

Shawn Jones: Yeah. I would say with LaunchCode, I say, "I'm not teaching you this subject. I'm teaching you how to learn."

Dave Hicking: Right, right.

Zuzana Kunckova: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Shawn Jones: So, I think in that situation, and anytime I was instructing the class like, "Hey, look, I'm not teaching you Java, I'm not teaching Java script, I'm teaching you how to learn it. So, then that way you can go off and go learn something else. I'm teaching you how to look at the problem." And I think you could still do that and give them the roadmap to give them the start. They'll develop the other things as they need it, but they need the launch pad first of how to do it, right? Because you got to think about it, a lot of folks don't get it too with LaunchCode, you're in taking folks who are like my age, I'm 38, you're taking folks between that, maybe even early 30s all the way up into their 60s.

Shawn Jones: And the crazy thing is that we came from a different time of learning where it wasn't sort like, what do they call it? Creative core or common core where you have to figure out the answer. We just learned off of memory, You just told us what to do and we executed and that was done. And so I think in that situation, for those folks, I think we have to lean into that style of teaching just for a little bit. Then they'll figure out the job, they'll do everything else because they're brilliant minded people. It's just that, you have to mold and wrap your brain around how they learn so they can get the gist of it. And it's, again, that leads back to the military. If you're in the basic training and they're teaching you something as simple as, "Hey, this is how you position and hold a rifle."

Shawn Jones: They don't teach you one way. They teach you three ways, they teach you. They literally explain the entire thing from front to back. Then right after that they say buy the numbers where they teach you in steps and then they give you time to actually do it yourself, perform it, and they'll give you corrections. They did that for every piece of instruction during basic training. There's never one time where you're like, Hey, this is it. Now it, They're like, No. They literally did those three ways just so if your brain didn't catch the straight up instruction, it might have caught it on the step by step. And if it didn't catch it on step by step, it probably caught it when you were doing the actual full blown demonstration. And by then, if you didn't get it, now they're asking like, What's wrong with you?

Shawn Jones: I taught it to you three ways. They're probably yelling at, you're like, What's wrong with you? What's wrong with you? I taught you three ways already, so you should have this by now. And I think we have to do that for folks when we're mentoring them. It's like they're not going to get it just because we explained it to, they're not going to get it just because we gave it to them the way that how we learned. We have to understand that they're probably learning different coming from a different place. And so if it's giving them the answer to eventually have them figure out how to develop it themselves in the future, awesome. If it's giving them space so that then they can cultivate it themselves, that's awesome too. That's another great tool. It's just a matter of who the person is and what they need.

Zuzana Kunckova: Well, so do you still work with LaunchCode or have you moved on? Or how do you find people to mentor? Or how do they find you?

Shawn Jones: Well, anybody who leaves LaunchCode always give them my contact information via LinkedIn. So, they can always come back to me and talk to me. Especially after the learning aspect, just the career stuff.

Zuzana Kunckova: Because learning doesn't stop once you finish a course that's just the beginning. That's just the beginning.

Shawn Jones: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, you got to learn how to navigate. How long should I stay at a job? Is this job for me, cultural stuff? Yeah. What do I really want to do? What do I really want to focus on? Do I want to... Because maybe a lot of the times in that program you're taught back in and front end, do I want to solely focus on front end versus back end? Do I still want to be both? That sort of thing. Do I even want to be in this language at all? Do I want to switch languages? How do I do that? So, a lot of the times it's having those conversations with one with recent graduates. Other times I still teach when I can. I don't think I've taught since 2021 just because of just weird stuff that was popping up there. But with the new building that's that they recently erected, I'm hoping to go back and teach maybe at the start of the year and do another six month instructional class.

Shawn Jones: But yeah, I think that's generally the case. And just being available, I think it's usually, I've always met myself available to answer questions and to have those conversations with folks during the course as well as outside of the course. And usually a lot of the times the questions are like, All right, so what is this really? They're like, "What is this tech world really? Should I do this? Should I not do this?" And a lot of the times it's, I'm just making sure that they listen to themselves. Yeah. Because we're coming from folks who we've gotten so used to try to be valuable for the employer that we don't listen to ourselves. And so I encourage them like, Hey, if you don't like the job, just say you don't like it and move on. Or if you need more money, you just need more money, just say what you need. And that'd be it.

Dave Hicking: It's hard because if you're coming from either you grew up this way or maybe your experience is so far as an adult, if you're coming from an environment where you haven't had good, steady jobs and you finally get that one that's paying you a certain amount, you think you get to that scarcity mindset where you're like, this is the... I can't. Maybe they're not treating me well but I'm making twice as much as I've ever made before, and it's hard to get out of that.

Shawn Jones: Exactly. 100%, and that's everybody that's going into that program, Yeah, unfortunately, and that was me dude. I was so appreciative when I was making double, I was like, "What? I'm making double word. This is great." And then you realize I value, maybe I might value this or value that more than money. But for me it's always a coach think. I think I've reached a certain age now where I'm only making money to give it to the kids because they're going to steal it for me anyway. They need the roadblocks, they need the fancy toys, they need the house. Me, it's, if I could live a simple life, I would absolutely live a simple life, but they need the money so I go get the monies, right? But it's one of those things where I value, personally, I value a culture of a place, right? So that's where I'm at now.

Shawn Jones: And so usually when I'm speaking on Tightening, like, oh yeah, this is what I got at work and so on and so forth, they're always like, Oh really? And their eyes light up too because we're all coming from those places where there's just no culture there. Service industry type stuff, type places. And they're like, Word, you don't have to do this. I'm like, yeah, this is great, this is great. So, I think ultimately there come from season like yo, it is what it is with money. But I would rather have a place where I can just comfortable at working and not just out of 10. That's what they're doing. The money's initially the priority. Once it steps away, it's like, all right, cool, well I don't really feel comfortable here or I don't have this. And I'm like, all right, well then and switch it up. Don't be afraid to switch it up. You're valuable now in a sense. So, you know, can move forward like this. And if you need anything, let me know. I'll reach out to folks and see if there's something out there for you.

Zuzana Kunckova: Yeah, I think people need to be told quite a few times that you are valuable Now, not that they weren't before, but I think especially for people who change career later on in life, there's a lot of baggage that comes with that. All jobs or experiences. And then you decide to just start over again halfway through your life with kids and responsibilities. And it's hard to not be too humble. You need to be humble, but not too much. You don't want to be like, Oh, thank you so much for this job and I'm never going to leave because I'm so grateful I got this job. You need to eventually believe that you are worth it now and you can move on and you can look after yourself. You don't just have to be so thankful for other people giving you stuff because now you earned it.

Shawn Jones: Exactly. Yeah, I remember feeling that way when I lost my job and I wasn't working for four months. And then when I finally got the new job, you just had that comparison in your mind of what life was with no money or you living on some sort of federal benefit for a bit. And then now you can actually sustain yourself and your brain is like, I don't ever want to go back there again, so I'll do whatever you got want me to do to make sure I don't ever fall back down to that place. And so yeah, I can completely see it. And it's the crazy thing of you do feel less valuable because of that. And so you'll talk yourself out of a good thing most of the time. And the funny thing was it was happening with my wife. Unfortunately, she worked at the university for a long time as a research coordinator.

Shawn Jones: She had several jobs over there, she'd been there for 10 years. And the pay for research coordination is not that great because it's nonprofit work. Most of the time it's grant money. But if you were to switch to the for profit sector, which doing the same thing, you make double. But she was afraid to leave that situation just because it's like, I do this type of research, not this type of research, so I don't know if it's going to transfer correctly. She wouldn't even put in the applications, she wouldn't even apply half the time. And I'm just like, fam, go for it. It's no big deal. You know? Got it. You've been doing above and beyond for years, so this transition should be nothing for you. And I think it took her several years to finally get into mindset, Yeah, I've got this value and I'm going to be able to go do it. And so we all experienced that and it's a crazy, crazy thing to come across to have so much value and then not see it in yourself.

Dave Hicking: Can you talk a bit about the two sides of what you think a successful mentorship relationship is like? Right. Because it's the mentor, but it's also the mentee. You have to not only need somebody who's not just willing to be a mentor but knows how to be a good mentor. But also you need somebody who's presumably willing to be mentored, right?

Shawn Jones: That's true. I think a good relationship is just any other relationship partnership in your life. Usually it's 50/50. So, whether that's a marriage relationship or friendship, a mentorship I think is very, very similar in there's a give and get from both sides sort of situation. So, a lot of the times in the give back to the mentor is you're performing the action that the mentor told you to do. So, a lot of the times' like hey ifs, you come to them and they say, Hey, I'm looking for a new job, or I'm looking for this new switch and I don't know what to do, dah, dah, dah. And the mentor's like, Hey, well there's this thing happening over here. You could go do this, you can do ABC and the mentees, I don't think it's going to work for me. Well then it ends there.

Shawn Jones: So it's one of those things where I can't really give you anything else to go off of or leave off, lead off of lead with if you don't want exercise it. So, it's just one of those things where I think that's the biggest thing there where I tell myself this a lot because I do this is like I can't own it more than you. So, if this is your career, this is your path. You have to be in a hundred percent. All I have to do is show up for you and I'm going to be in a hundred percent too. It's like I'm going to match whatever energy you give, but if I give you energy and you don't use it, then I can't really give you anything else because you're not implementing it. So, I think a good relationship is a person who's willing to listen to the advice and implement the advice.

Shawn Jones: And then for the men, the mentors just be available to, hey, if this thing doesn't work and we need to go a different direction, then you know, maneuver and go that different direction. You help them out in that different way. That person says, Hey, this isn't working for me. The mentor doesn't just throw up their hands and go, Oh, okay, well that's all I got. Yeah, bye. It was like, all right, well let's sit down, let's discuss it, let's talk about it, right? Let's walk through it. And then in that situation, the mentor's probably going to run up into something where I have zero resources for this, but maybe I've got friends that are in that area that can help you out and I can keep in contact and touch and work on that side, but still the mentee has to go and do those things for themselves.

Shawn Jones: They have to go and assist and say, All right, cool. They told me to apply here, I'm going to apply here. Or I got to apply to three places a day. Got it. All right, cool. I got to do this training for myself. Got it. I got to do these things and maybe follow up here. Okay, that's great. They have to follow through with the word and I think it's that as well as it also needs to be some word of a friendship as well. Yeah, I think when you're mentoring somebody, I think you got to also be a decent friend, just talk about things that are not work or talk about just because you can build that sort of bond. Because I think that also motivates the person to be like, oh this is a close friend of mine, I won't want to let them down so to speak and they're helping me out. So, let me do that too. And if I think you don't, that's a good look what their relationship's going to be.

Zuzana Kunckova: Let's say you find you've got that good rush, so you've got a mentee, mentor. How do you evaluate that growth then? So is there something specific you look out for as they progress through, I know the learning of whatever, is they learning? Is it the attitude, the speed that they learn questions they ask? What do you look out for?

Shawn Jones: Crazy thing is I don't really evaluate their growth too much. This is going to sound nuts, right? Okay. So, the reason why I don't evaluate their growth is because I myself, as a person who I'm growing in different ways, I'm not necessarily growing in a technical way every day. For example, I'm pretty technical. I think I know my job pretty well and I think I'm growing in that direction. But I don't think I was doing that day after day, week after week. I think I hit plateaus there and it pauses and then as I get thrown something new, I think that's when I grow. So, my growth in that one particular category probably won't change for 6, 7, 8 months. I might be, but I might be doing the job fine. But I was growing by assisting other folks and helping them in that light. I was growing by maybe dividing up task and doing things that way.

Shawn Jones: So I think with mentees, I think when you're guiding them, I think the only way I evaluate is how they look at the situation. If they're able to look at the situation with a little bit more confidence, I feel like I can assess that they're growing there. If they're able to look at, they're more comfortable with jumping in head first. Because a lot of times they're skittish. So, if they're able to jump in head first in a situation that they're not very familiar with, I think there's growth there in that. And if not, I think that's what I'm going to fix first because I think you attitude, Yeah, I think the attitude is there. So, I think it's like, all right, cool. If you're not positive thinking about yourself, then I'm going to ask you why and then I'm going to reassure you that no you have it.

Shawn Jones: And then from there unknowingly, that's the fire starter for you to jump and do all the things. So, in the technical aspect of it, if you have it, don't have it, you're going to get it right? Because there's only certain folks who want to do this type of work. So, problem solve on a daily and learn it new tools on a daily. So, the minute you say you want to be a programmer or you want to be in this field, I don't try to be like, Hey, do you have it or don't have it. I never look at it like that. I am the cook and rat toy. I'm like, everybody can cook. I'm like, well everybody can code. So, I think you got it. And my mentorship is more so in the lines of I'm going to make sure that you feel confident that you got it.

Shawn Jones: And anything that's a technical piece that you're missing, we're going to make sure that you have that. Because again, it's like once you do it, once you understand it, you can replicate it and then it's going to be up to you again to take that responsibility and to say, You know what? I don't understand this the way I want. Let me dive into it a little bit more and figure it out for myself. That's going to, that's on every individual to do. So, my idea is just my view of the mentorship is just to make sure that you feel confident doing it and if you don't, why and let's fix that. And so as long as you are growing in that area, I think that's probably the only measuring piece of growth that I'm like, yeah, that's a learning to me that I'm evaluating and that I'm fixing, that I'm addressing.

Zuzana Kunckova: I quite, yeah, I think again, when you say that you've got it, how do you know that I have it? Because often people say, I know you can do it, you know can do. But how do you know I can, I'm good enough, clever enough. How do you know I can code? Because you don't know if I don't know. What would you say to that? Because I personally struggle with, how do I know I've got it?

Shawn Jones: I would say the minute that you don't give up. The minute you don't have a mental breakdown on something, right? And that's tell me one developer who went into a technical piece and they knew every bit of it. We get clients that Tighten all the time. We don't know every bit of it, but you have to who have to pause and maybe devise a plan, a solution and then look it up and make sure that's the path to go before we do it. Very rare are we in situations where we're like, "Oh yeah, I know everything from A to Z and I'm going to map out everything from A to Z." We're problem solvers in the moment, so to speak. So, I don't expect any particular to developer to be, I think it's normal actually. I think it's very normal for you as an individual to and as a developer to say, Oh my god, I don't know.

Shawn Jones: And how am I going to figure this out? The fact that you're asking those questions perfect. That's why that's the best place to be. If you're not asking those questions that you think everything, that's scary for me. So, I think in that sense of, I think the fact that you, you're not giving up and I think the fact that you're troubleshooting says that you're going to be okay. You know what I'm saying? The person who gives up, that's the person where I'm like, okay, I don't think they got it. They're bowing out early for no reason. They're just not showing up. But the person, I

Zuzana Kunckova: Like this, this is my therapist session, I keep talking, I like this.

Shawn Jones: So I think the person who shows up every day willing to look at a problem and troubleshoot and Willie says, Hey, I don't know the answers. I don't have the answers. It was willing to answer and say, Hey, please help me you, you're there, I got it. And that's what, well you

Zuzana Kunckova: Say, I've got it. Then I must have it.

Shawn Jones: You must. You got it.

Dave Hicking: Shawn, I'm going to take this in a slightly more cynical self-serving. Please do for a sec. No, because I'm sure, I'm not saying I'm thinking this, I'm saying I'm imagining somebody might be thinking of the this and listen to this and maybe they're having a stressed out day and they're like, I mean what am I the potential mentor? What am I going to get at of mentoring? And I like Shawn ti hear you tell your story and here you so far on this podcast and just knowing you, I feel like you have want to, I don't know if it's give back, you want to pass it along, you want to help people. But what do you think are the positive benefits aside? What are some other positive benefits for folks who are thinking, Should I be a mentor? Because it's a time commitment, it's a life commitment, It's a thing knows, but we think it's good. But I mean beyond just, yeah, you should do it. It's good. What are some other reasons why people might want to be a mentor?

Shawn Jones: Yeah, outside this is very hard. So, outside of what is a personal benefit of this?

Dave Hicking: I know that's so cynical, I'm so sorry.

Shawn Jones: But no-

Zuzana Kunckova: What's in it? Why did you do it? Why did you even bother?

Shawn Jones: For my drive? I can only really speak to my drive and the reason why I do it. Though, the place where I was before getting this sort of assistance. And I feel like in this day and age we've, we've been left out to dry in a variety of different areas of our lives, particularly in America. There's a lot of folks out there with student loan debt that hasn't really been answered for, There's a lot of things where we try and go for the job and we think, oh, this job is going to be what it is. And we are often ran in, I've often ran into situations again where some organization or some person is like, Hey, we're going to give this thing to you or it's going to be like this and it's just not right. And it burns you in so many ways that you eventually thinking, no one's out to help me, No one's out to be this.

Shawn Jones: So for me personally, it's just to give that experience that someone's always going to be there for you. And Dave, you're absolutely right. There's no reward for this in a sense. For me it's the reward is I'm just happy to see other people happy and I'm happy to see people in a better situation than where they were. And I'm happy that I could assist. But that's me. I understand that other folks, they're like, Yo, that's not enough. I need money. You know what I'm saying? I need some sort of compensation. Or it could be like this, that and the other me, I don't care. It's like I'll help for free most of the time. I mean, of course I was getting paid for LaunchCode and I was like, yeah, it's a plus. But it's one of those things where even if someone approached me on the side, as long as they were a mentee who wanted to soak up the information, who wanted to do all the work that they could, and they just needed some guidance here and there.

Shawn Jones: I'm a huge person who just doesn't want to see you fall in a hole anywhere and get stuck. But yeah, the commitment is huge. The benefit is just, it's weird, it's sad, it's just, it's seeing the community in a better place than where it was. Unfortunately that's a plus for me speaking particularly in St. Louis. And with LaunchCode, if you think about it, they've placed close to maybe 4,000, maybe 5,000 people. So, that takes four to 5,000 people out of service industry positions and puts them in programming positions in corporate companies somewhere in the city right now that's 5,000 openings for positions that can be filled by other people who need them, right? And I think that's a benefit, which means now that's more people working, which means now that's an improvement on the city. So, inadvertently helps the city, which then means now if the city is in a better place where it's able to grow and support itself, that means I've got better neighborhoods for my kids to grow up in.

Shawn Jones: So I'm a huge proponent of, I used to study music. It's like if you get the note right in the measure to fit the time signature to fit your piece, it makes the score sound so much better. And so it's the same thing. It's if I can get this one person here is it's just one person. But if I assist them and get them to a place where everything is good, it inadvertently helps maybe three or four other people and it helps the things around it comes back to me somehow.

Shawn Jones: And I think that's the true piece of, that's what I believe mentor, it's going to come back to me. It's not for free. It's going to come back to me in some place, shape or form in the future. And I think that's going to be the real true benefit payoff. And the great thing about that is now when I go to maybe a soiree or something like that, or I go to a meetup, it's, there's a positive experience meeting different people and hearing them because I share and they share and they know that I'm teaching and stuff like that. So, it's like you get minds together and you're able to build more things because of it. So, I think that's the benefit is seeing that happen and being a part of that.

Zuzana Kunckova: You're changing lives. I mean no reasons to just go around. You're changing lives, you're changing people's lives for the better.

Shawn Jones: That's the win. But I mean, if you need something more tangible -

Dave Hicking: I mean there are other like to... That's nice. I don't know if the cynical or sort of a cold calculated way. Yes, I'm playing the role of cynical Dave today. No. If you have a company that has developers on it, almost once you get past a handful of devs, you've got some devs who almost certainly could use some mentorship. Now, whether you're in the position to do that, or maybe you need to help facilitate that mentorship will help your company, will help your team.

Dave Hicking: If you are at all the separate note, if you're at all concerned about, or you want concerned about the incoming pipeline of new devs into the industry, whether you want to improve, if you want to see a more diverse group of devs, if you just want to see more devs in general, if you want to build that up, mentorship is a very crucial piece to that are, even if you personally aren't swayed by the sort communal, this is great for the community, this is just great for the world. It could be really good for your business, it could be really good for your industry. It's just good.

Shawn Jones: Yeah, because even in those situations where it's internal to the company developing a culture that never dies. And I, it rolls over and it actually doesn't even depend on you. One of the cool things for an example is every class in LaunchCode I was teaching, I would throw up or throw out. They say, "Hey, Code Til Dawn." Which is a meetup in St. Louis. Like, "Hey, Code Til Dawn starts from seven to twelve. You can come up, we can work on your assignments together." We'll have a few, the classmates show up after hours and we can do that there.

Shawn Jones: They do that now without me, even though I started doing that as something four or five years ago. And I think it's wonderful. So, now every time, even if I'm not teaching, I could show up to the Code Til Dawn meetup and meet current LaunchCode like applicants working on their stuff, which is awesome. So, just to do that maybe in inside of a company and develop that for your culture where you're doing particular certain things, It could be something that just is baked in and you don't have to think about.

Dave Hicking: Yeah. Well, all right, Shawn, we are almost at the end of our time here, but before we go, I wanted to ask, is there anything about mentorship that you wanted to touch on real quick that we didn't get a chance to talk about today? Some part of it that we didn't ask you about or something in specific, You just something specific you just want people to have as a takeaway?

Shawn Jones: Be real about being a mentor. If you can't do it then, and that's okay. And because it's going to affect the people you're involved with and everything like that. So, for some reason if someone says, Hey, I want to link up and I want to do this, that and the other. If you just don't have the time or if your heart's not in it, or if something rubs you the wrong way about the individual, just it's okay to say no. It's okay to be like, Hey, I don't have the time. I'm sorry. You could point them in the right direction. And don't think just because you're a senior at a company or you're some sort of high overarching individual somewhere that you absolutely have to mentor people. If it's just not on your skill set to do it, then just don't. If you don't have the love for it, then, so I'll leave with that.

Zuzana Kunckova: Yeah, I like it because feels like everyone should be a mentor to pay it forward in a way. But I suppose not everyone should be a mentor like that. People who would do would be better mentors than others. And you shouldn't feel the pressure to be one, just because you are in this industry, or like you said, because you're a senior or because you've been mentored by somebody else. There are people who would be good at it, and there are others that might not.

Shawn Jones: Oh, and also don't worry if you don't have a title. If you're a junior and you want to help somebody out, help somebody out. I think a lot of the assistance comes from folks at the same level as opposed to top down. So, if you think you got it, just do it. And if you don't, then don't.

Dave Hicking: Shawn, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been great. For folks who want to learn more about you, find you online, where should they go?

Shawn Jones: GitHub, Twitter. I think Dark Boy Wonder at those locations. If you want to follow me.

Zuzana Kunckova: One day I'm going to ask you about the origins of that some time.

Shawn Jones: That's for sure. Yeah, Dark Boy Wonder on Twitter, GitHub. It's a sound reference. I'll fill you in later on that way. And then, on Instagram, I am just Shawn underscore Jones on Instagram if you want to follow me there too.

Dave Hicking: All right, Shawn, thank you so much. This has been great.

Zuzana Kunckova: Thank you. Thank you for the therapy session.

Shawn Jones: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Zuzana Kunckova: Really enjoyed it.

Shawn Jones: No problem.

Dan Sheetz

Dan Sheetz

Partner + Managing Director

Hey, I’m Dan!

I spend my days helping businesses at key moments in their evolution become the massively successful, software-propelled businesses they were meant to be.